Quality, service and price are claims that advertisers have used for years. Unfortunately, they don't work anymore because consumers have become numb to such common and empty rhetoric.

Don't customers already assume that businesses offer quality products and good service? What company wouldn't claim that?

These expectations aren't customer benefits. Claims such as quality and service can be unique only if you are able to show why yours are outstanding compared with those of the competition.

The same holds true for price. Unless you're selling a commodity item, people generally make purchase decisions based on the value of goods or service versus cost alone.

People are exposed to as many as 5,000 advertising impressions each day. So most of us have become good at filtering through the nonsense and focusing on only what interests us.

When you read a magazine or newspaper, don't you scan each page for topics of interest? Isn't your ultimate screening mechanism a tiny voice inside saying, "What's in this for me?"

You're not unique. Most of us have fine-tuned our scanning abilities to instantly decipher relevant material. And then, most advertisements that get any attention at all receive only 2-3 seconds of it.

So, why do so many companies waste these precious 2-3 seconds with messages that are so unappealing?

If people pay attention to what interests them and ignore everything else, how can you break through the clutter with a message that people care about?

All you have to do is press your customers' hot buttons.

People naturally resist change, and when you ask them to try your product or service, you're asking them to change what they usually do. Your job is to convince people to change their habit and spend money with you, so your advertising must instantly communicate the benefits of changing their habit, thus touch their hot buttons.

You've got a huge advantage over your competition if you've taken the time to position your company after (1) learning what is important to your customers (2) determining what problem your product or service can solve for them, and (3) articulating why your company is the best or only choice.

As a result of that advantage, you can now create more powerful ads.

When you focus your messages using those three critical components, you can begin to craft advertising that your customers will respond to.

The best way to set your business apart from the competition is to find a unique benefit of your product or service. This is what your customers want. It changes the focus to something that interests them rather than just spewing useless babble about you.

Ads that speak about your years in business, awards won, and promises of quality, service, and lowest price may gratify your ego, but they just don't interest the very people you're spending money to reach. These folks want to instantly know what you have that benefits them.

Let's say, as an example, that you come into your office one morning, crazed and stressed, to find a message that your secretary will be out sick for a few days. You check the yellow pages. Which ad headline would most motivate you to take action?

ABC Staffing
Staffing local businesses since 1989

We're Your Staffing Solution
Quality and Service

Need qualified staff in a hurry?
We'll have them there in 1 hour—or they're free

The first headline offers nothing of value. The second makes unsubstantiated statements that offer no proof of value. The third headline, however, is in a class by itself. It instantly lets you know exactly what you'll get:

  • A qualified person
  • In an hour
  • Or you don't pay

That simple headline addresses your immediate need with a promise backed up by a trump-card guarantee. You know what's in it for you.

That advertiser understands his customers perfectly and also throws in the key differentiator to distinguish himself from the competition. He is so confident he can deliver to your satisfaction in one hour that he is willing to prove it by reversing all the risk onto himself and provide a person free of charge.

When you dare to think differently, you can stop running the money-wasting, ego-gratifying ads that speak only of things like quality, service, and price—and run start running advertising that actually works.

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Christine L. Pilch is a principal with Your Brand Partnership (yourbrandpartnership.com), which helps businesses position and brand themselves for accelerated growth.